New American Songbook

"In 20 years of listening to hip hop, its music and stories have never left me unchallenged or unchanged. Throughout its history—from Kool Herc to KRS and beyond—hip hop has told the story of America through the styles of noir, memoir, jazz and rhythm and blues, comic books and blockbuster action movies. It is everything we say we are, and those things we maintain we are not. This is the new American Songbook." - KMUW commentator, Zack Gingrich-Gaylord  

New American Songbook can be heard on alternate Mondays, or through iTunes.

In hip hop, it’s not unusual for strong personalities to go up against one another—we call it beef. But the song “You Are Not a Riot” by the Oakland-based outfit called The Coup puts an interesting spin on beef with its subject, described in the subtitle as “An RSVP from David Siquieros to Andy Warhol”.

When Los Angeles erupted in violence in 1992, I was thirteen and in eighth-grade in Wichita. I don’t remember teachers talking much about it, but other students did.

I didn’t grow up with hip hop—I came to it late from punk rock, when punk had turned bubblegum and hip hop was in yet another of its golden ages in the mid-90’s.

In the early 1900s, an Irish immigrant named Mary Mallon worked as a personal cook for several wealthy families.

Her tenure also coincided with several outbreaks of typhoid, a bacterial infection that--in its most severe cases--can be fatal. It was eventually determined that Mary was a carrier of the disease and for the next few years she alternated between quarantine and a kind of life on the run as she continued to insist on working as a cook, which inevitably led to more typhoid outbreaks. She would spend the final 23 years of her life in quarantine.

  

Spring is finally here, and along with it comes one of my favorite activities: playing music really loud in my car. 

The 2016 album “Telefone” from Chicago emcee Noname opens with a song centered on her grandmother. As Noname struggles with growing fame and its attendant problems, memories of her grandmother enter the verse, grounding her in a reality that is also grounded in reality. Here, a line like "don’t grow up too soon, don’t blow the candles out, don’t let them cops get you," is encompassing in a way that nostalgia often isn’t—it’s complex and sad, wistful and heartbroken.

I’m constantly surprised by what I hear in hip hop, and not just lyrically. The other half of hip hop, the beats, is as expansive and comprehensive a music as any other, and because it’s sample-based music, it’s really hard to run out of new forms.

New American Songbook: XV Minutes of Fame

Feb 13, 2017

Donavan “XV” Johnson signed a major recording label contract with Warner Bros. Records in July 2010. The journey to become a signed artist required lots of hard work and persistence from the Wichita native who didn’t have a roadmap or blueprint to get there. As Wichita’s first solo rap artist to achieve this success, the weight was immediately placed on XV’s shoulders to put his city on the map.

To my mind, the question for 2017 is not so much what do we want, but how will we achieve what we want. The election of Donald Trump to the presidency has changed some things for some people, and has made more explicit the continued struggles of others. Racism, for instance, did not suddenly come into being on November 9 or January 20, although perhaps a renewed sense of urgency towards addressing it did.

On the latest release from hip hop duo Run the Jewels, every track is a fist, held in the air, raised in resistance, or a jaw-crushing volley thrown in service of the revolution.

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